Thursday, April 15, 2010

More Sketches

Ok, here's a few more caricatures I've done over the years:

This one was done for the retirement of Col. Spencer - a good friend of mine and the leader of the Officer Christian Fellowship at Camp Pendleton for many years. As you can see, he's leaving the 2-star headquarters where he worked to pursue his love of surfing & fishing. I thought about having him wearing a tropical-themed swimsuit, but decided that that would probably demean the uniform. This was probably the first one I did for an individual, and I think it's probably my best work in terms of what he actually looks like.

This one was done for a good buddy of mine, Capt. Phill Bragg. He's now been selected for Lieutenant Colonel and is the acting Regimental XO for 11th Marines. Here, he was the CO of Romeo Btry, 5th Bn, 11th Marines and had just returned from OIF. Note the old-school M198 howitzer (the Marines now use the M777 Light Towed Howitzer) as well as the frosty pint of Guinness (for strength!).

This one was done in Germany for the Staff Judge Advocate at MARFOREUR. I think I overdid it on his neck length, though. If you click on the picture and enlarge it you can read the book titles.

This is one of my favorites, and also the one that took the longest to do. "Lex" is the host of Neptunus Lex, and I've been privileged to meet him on a handful of occasions. When he posted something on his blog about retiring a few years back, I figured that this was the least I could do for him since I had been enjoying his website so much over the years. As it happened, I was able to come to his retirement party at an Irish pub in San Diego and present it to him in person. The toughest part was surreptitiously finding current unit's patch (all the others are on his site) and then getting all the details right, even down to the "piddle pack" behind his ejection seat!

This last one is also my most recent, presented just yesterday. Eric Knowlton is an old friend of mine - we went through The Basic School together as 2nd Lieutenants back in 1994-95. While I was going through artillery school at Ft. Sill, I got a request from Eric wondering if some of us would be able to drive down to Dallas to do the sword arch for his wedding. That was the last I'd seen or heard from him until I ran into him at the Miramar PX a few months ago, where I learned that he was the Maintenance Officer for the new V-22 Osprey squadron. Last Friday, I took him up on his offer to show me around and brought the family down to the squadron. Eric was an excellent tour guide, and took us all out to the flightline and let Rachel and Dash climb up inside one of the Ospreys and look around. He then took us over to the simulator building and let us each take turns "flying" one of them around San Diego. As a token of my appreciation, I drew this for him and presented it to him yesterday afternoon.


I've always loved to draw. Ever since I was a kid, I would draw whenever I got the chance. Usually, that ended up being in class - where the teachers were none too impressed with my budding artistic talents. Later, I would go on to major in graphic design in college, even though I knew that it would have little bearing on my chosen career as a Marine officer.

However, I was soon to discover that everyone appreciates someone who can draw. Even in my profession as an artilleryman, I found that my terrain sketches were admired - not just because of how nice they looked, but because anyone could pick them up and immediately identify the various targets and reference points because they matched the terrain in front of them. Also, I found myself in constant demand to do t-shirts, coins, tattoos, etc. for the various units I was a part of. I even painted a few murals that are still up at Fort Sill and outside the T-Hutte in MARFOREUR headquarters.

My first effort into doing caricatures occurred during my second deployment. One of my buddies had asked me to do one of him, and it quickly evolved into a large drawing that involved all of the principal staff and officers in our Battalion Landing Team. It got so popular that people would come by my stateroom to see it and provide suggestions on how I should draw some of their buddies. By the end of the float, everyone wanted a copy, so I ended up going to Kinko's and making a bunch of color copies and then hand-colored each one so it looked pretty close to the original. I then sold 'em for $20 apiece, and I think I made somewhere around $400 or so.

Several years later, I began doing these sorts of sketches on an individual basis - either for retirements or end-of-tour gestures. I also did a few on my own of some of the well-known figures in Marine Corps lore.

Here's one of legendary Marine Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, 5 time recipient of the Navy Cross:

Here's the original source photo that provided the inspiration:

I also did another one of Major General Smedley Butler, well-known to legions of Marines as being the only officer to ever be awarded two Medals of Honor for two separate acts of valor:

Sadly, both of these original drawings have disappeared; probably stuck in some forgotten folder somewhere. Fortunately, I was smart enough to scan them into my computer before they lost themselves in the depths of my file drawer.

I guess that's enough for now - I'll post more of them later when I have a bit more time.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

8 Simple Words

Today I received some rather surprising news.

I have a friend whom I've only met but once. He and I frequent the same blog, and over the years we've become "regulars" on there. Several months ago, I received an email from him, asking if I was up for some counseling as he was in need of some help.

My reply? "Sure thing - what can I do you for?"

8 Simple words.

I sent my message back, sent a follow-up email with my phone number in case he wanted to call, and promptly forgot about it. Waited to hear back from him. Never did.
I wondered if maybe he'd gotten help somewhere else or had reconsidered his request.

Oh well, I thought, I guess I wasn't much help to him.

Several months later, I heard from him again, this time expressing gratitude for my help. "What help?" I thought to myself. I didn't do anything - just made an offer, which was apparently declined.

Fast forward to yesterday. I was corresponding with him, and casually asked what had been going on that had prompted his original request, and his later expression of thanks.

"It was suicide," he told me. "You were there. That was enough. That was just enough."

Life and death just an email apart.

8 simple words: "Sure thing - what can I do you for?"

Sometimes the times where we think we're the least effective turn out to have the biggest impact.

No, I didn't do anything. But I was there when he needed someone.

And in the end, that was enough.